by John Wilmerding (for the displaced and oppressed peoples of the world)
Completed May 12, 2006

[A triptych is three works of art of the same type, meant to be appreciated together.]

I. 'I Am Still Here', or 'Intrepid Interlopers and Civilized Cannibals'
II. Ora, The Dream
III. What Has Gates Must Also Have Walls


I. 'I Am Still Here', or
'Intrepid Interlopers and Civilized Cannibals'
by John Wilmerding (dedicated to Homer St. Francis, direct descendant of Greylock)
[Written at one sitting September 17, 2003, upon waking from a dream]

Whose name meant
'Eaters of the Bark of Trees'
to the Iroquois
who admired their survival skills
in these green mountains
of their Ndakinna

Spirit comes to me in the night
'I am still here', it says
'Why do you put me in a museum?
Why do you memorialize me
when I am still here?'

I read about the school's mascot
the 'Indian'
The funny dolls and costumes
at the football games
There's a controversy
Someone is saying
'I am still here
'Why do you poke fun at me?
Why do you make me your mascot?'

I read about Greylock
About his raids and forays
From Abenaki summer hunting-grounds
South through Ndakinna
(though I have no right to speak that name
Ndakinna means 'our land'
but this is not my land
but rather land stolen by my ancestors)

South-east through Wantastiquet
'River that leads to the west'
where I live today
Came Greylock
Over and over again
on raids and forays
living off Ndakinna
trying to drive the settlers
from Ndakinna
from Wantastiquet
from Connecticut

'I am still here'
This is Ndakinna
Our piece of grandmother Earth
where she nourishes us with her fruits
her game
... Why do you take her away?

I read about colonist reprisals
Intrepid bands of settlers head north
Through Connecticut
(now called western Massachusetts
or Vermont, for the Green Mountains)
Through Wantastiquet
Through Ndakinna
to the Abenaki summer hunting grounds
They find the women and children
and they kill them
but they cannot live off Ndakinna
the way the Abenaki can

So they spare some Abenaki children
and they kill them as they go
South through Ndakinna
South-east through Wantastiquet
They kill them and eat their flesh

They pass near here
where I live today
this 'Brattleboro'
Named after a British officer
who won it in a card game
but who was never here

They pass through here
these Englishmen
with their chunks of child-flesh
drying on their belts

'I am still here', says the voice
waking me in the night

We are a peculiar people
we who walk these green mountains today
or drive over them with our SUV's
who stretch our covered bridges
across Wantastiquet

We come and build our towns
our churches and meeting-houses
in someone else's 'Ndakinna'

We fancy ourselves special
Our 'chosen peoples' come
to someone else's 'Ndakinna'
We pay dollars for part of her
and name our land trust 'Abenaki'
but then the voice comes in the night
'I am still here'
and we have to name them something else

We know upon whose land we walk
We seek to assuage the spirits
We journey to the summer hunting grounds
There, we buy souvenirs
Maybe we tie them to our belts
as we go back south
through their Ndakinna
through their Wantastiquet

We visit Homer St. Francis
hereditary chief of the Abenaki
direct descendent of Greylock
for Greylock lived to a ripe old age
and fathered many children
whose descendants are still here

We speak with this great man
Homer St. Francis
now dying of cancer
who tells us about something called
who shows us papers proving
that his bloodlines were
targeted for extinction
We invite him to come
to tell his people's story
in our Quaker meeting-house

Chief Homer of the Abenaki
retraces Greylock's steps
down through his Ndakinna
down through their Wantastiquet
comes the hereditary chief of the Abenaki
to the Putney Friends meeting-house
built on the almost-Abenaki land trust
now called something else
because someone said
'I am still here'

Homer tells his people's story
in Putney congregational church
because our meeting-house
is not big enough for all the people

'You say you worship the great spirit'
he says
'Why do you do this thing indoors
when the Great Spirit is outside?
Come out-of-doors
Come to grandmother Earth
Come to grandfather Sky'

'I have told you our story today
Just remember this one thing about me
Even though today I am dying
I am still here'

I sleep in the open-air shed
Spirit comes to me in the night
'I am still here', it says

Dawn breaks on Indian Brook Camp
at Farm and Wilderness Camps
Quakers camping in 'Ndakinna'
in Homer St. Francis' land
It is said that Quakers own the camps
How is this so?
How, when spirits come in the night
saying 'I am still here'?

We start our worship indoors
We become quiet, then we talk again
someone says
'Let's try an experiment
let's move outside
for meeting for worship
with a concern for business'

We sit in the sun on the porch of the lodge
a grand lodge that can hold a hundred people
at the so-called 'Indian Brook Camp'
We few, we thirty or so
We have our meeting for worship
with a concern for business
It goes well
sitting on Grandmother Earth
worshipping under Grandfather Sky

At the end, the Clerk thanks those Friends
who made the supreme sacrifice
of shading their eyes
with pieces of white paper
from the sunlight

I speak to the other Quakers
before we rise
I remember Homer St. Francis
now passed into the great beyond
who came down his Ndakinna
who traversed his Wantastiquet
in the steps of his valiant ancestor Greylock
this man Homer St. Francis
whose bloodlines were targeted for extinction
who bid us worship out-of-doors
who nevertheless said 'I am still here'

Spirit comes to me in the night
'I am still here', it says

I cannot sleep; I arise
I go to the computer
Someone wants the map
The 1946 map of Palestine
now called something else
her people herded into captivity
Alas, there are no more hunting-grounds
into which they can retreat

I send the map
'Please tell me if it works for you', I say
'It's a little over 1.5 megabytes
takes about five minutes to download
on a 56K modem

Then I wonder ...
Will there someday be an Arab mascot?
Will someone build a bedouin museum?
Will someone name their land trust 'Muslim'?
Will Jewish Quakers worship at Camp Palestine?
Will they sleep well at night
Or will voices come in the night
saying 'I am still here'?


II. Ora, The Dream
by John Wilmerding (dedicated to Ora Wise of 'Jews Against The Occupation')
[Written at one sitting February 24, 2004, upon waking from a dream]

The dream
O Israel
O Jerusalem
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem
May my right hand lose its cunning
May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth
Foundation and Heritage of Shalom
How different are you than al Quds, the holy?
How different than Islam herself?

The dream
O Israel
You bear witness to rapine
Your clothes are torn from you
Your breast exposed
Your body violated
A fence, nay a wall, laid before you
But not of you
Dividing your mind from your heart
The exposed breast a sign from G-d
How sad she is so few of us can see

The dream
O Israel
Your thousand-year-old cloak rent from you
Your natural grace torn asunder
Concrete and concertina wire, razor sharp
Rend the skin of your children
They cannot reach your breasts to nurse
Where is the milk of human kindness
Where is the message in your breast
The message that says 'I am a gift'?
Only hiding, perhaps, driven inside
By those who rape you, who plunder you

The dream
O Israel
You reached me with a message unintended
You slaughtered my heart so I'm sacrificed
Your bosom cried out to me
'Tear open my shirt ... expose my breasts'
Yes, beautiful, I said to myself
And watched the grace of the model on the platform
Watched the eyes and the curl of the mouth
The shape that only a woman's thigh can have
The gentle curve of her roominess for children
But I missed the message
Until the dream

The dream
G-d came to me in the dream and explained
Ora is Israel, He said
Ora is struggling to be born
Ora is Homo Sapiens Sapiens
Ora is charismatic Jew
Ora is of the blood of the Christ
It is Israel's breasts who are exposed
In the act of birthing her children for the future
She is Israel ... Ora is Israel
Al-Llah YHWH, Abba to all
Told me this

The dream
Explained 'Jews Against the Occupation'
For the cradle, the mother of humanity
Cannot occupy the father
Only the other way around
Only this will bring the children
If the man rapes the woman
Tears open her robes, exposes her breast
Occupies her in a fit of power and rage
Her body will go fallow
Yet she will return in all her glory
The wall against intimacy and tenderness will fall
The wall is anathema
Know that the wall is anathema

The dream
Can the woman thrive without the man?
Only subsist
Some say a woman without a man
Is like a fish without a bicycle
But in this case, it doesn't apply
Out of her mother's womb
In the city of Jerusalem
The girl-child of Israel is born
Reaching out to love the world
Saying to all the people 'You are mine'
Living for her destiny, this Jewish Christ
Clothed in the body of a woman
Bearing witness to her own rapine
Praying only for our salvation
As she fears her own slaughter

The dream
Never fear
G-d has not forsaken you
G-d reaches you and comforts you
In your travails for Shalom, for Salaam,
The foundation and heritage, Jerusalem
Know that this name is of YHWH
Whose name all should fear to speak
Yet the One we must address regardless
Though we cannot see G-d's face
It is fated that a few will know
G-d looks something like you

The dream
Told me what we do
Told me what we must do
For too long, we play the man
Taking from the Earth her spoils
The false man, the soldier, the killer
The rapist wrenching what he wants
From the body of the Earth, of Israel
For too long, we carry walls
Fences, barriers, keeping out
That which we cannot recall
Yet that which we must recall
The known emerging from the hidden

The dream
It told me that it's woman's turn
It's your turn
We, humanity, have long awaited you
For life, human life, is but a game
Women and men take turns
And now it is your turn
State your piece, make your peace
Share your bridge-builder nature
Gates are not enough
Strands of shiny wire will rust away
Pancakes of powdered Earth will fall
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
And human hope will rise again
Human Spirit, Israel, rises again
Seeking Zion

The dream
G-d cannot guide you
Only tell you who you are
You are destiny, you are fire
You are the raging of the mother, child lost
You are the olive branch
Writhing on the ground beneath the hot sun
Her life-blood seeping into the Earth
Dying, yet in death alive
Promising fruit one day once again
Emerging from the holy soil
You are showing your charisma
You fly the flag on high
Yet it does not have to be blue and white
It does not have to bear a star
For you are the star
Borne from on High, given to Earth


III. What Has Gates Must Also Have Walls
by John Wilmerding (dedicated to Matthias Göring, a relative of Nazi official Hermann Göring)
[Written at one sitting May 12, 2006, upon waking from a dream]

"I want you to guard the gates of Jerusalem ..."
That's what the man says G-d told him.
Yet what has gates must also have walls ...
Is Jerusalem a gated community?

If justice is a function of community,
must communities mean apartheid?
Must we always name that which we love
as opposed to what we hate?
Must we always choose a loyalty?

What does it mean to love your enemies?
Does it have to begin with enmity?
We say we love Jerusalem,
Foundation and heritage of Shalom ...
but others simply call it 'the holy' ...
Must such a place have a name?

Jebus, from the Jebusites
state the earliest scriptures
Then the Hebrew immigrants
Took it over and renamed it.
What was it called before?
Before even the Jebusites?

Sut Nam! What is your true name?
You! Smith! Or Jones! Or Wilmerding!
What is there about you that really matters?

If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
May my right hand lose its cunning,
May my tongue cleave
to the roof of my mouth.
Where is the roof of the world?
Must a roof keep us from heaven?
Must we fix the hole
Where the rain gets in?

We shit near where we sit.
We eat near where we think.
Our eyes look out in one direction,
not from the back of our head.
Whether we are deaf or not,
Do we have ears to hear?
What is there to listen to?

What is your true name?
Not the one your mother gave you.
Not the one your father bore.
How can I call you?
What makes you respond?
How do you feel what's real?

Today the children of Nazis say
'Jews are the real heroes'.
Yet Muslim Arabs in Palestine say
'Jews are the real Nazis'.
Must one read between the lines
To see the truth?

Why do we need heroes?
Or is everyone famous now
for fifteen minutes?
My clock is ticking ...
What about inflation?
With oil a hundred bucks a barrel
Maybe we only get five seconds now.

What is there about being human
that makes us separate?
Or are we?
Are we?

Ben and Jerrys make a Vermonster
A bucket of ice cream, twenty scoops
A quart of chocolate fudge syrup
No one person can eat one
But is Vermont, Ndakinna
What the Abenaki called 'our land'
The whitest state in the union
Is Vermont the real monster?
Is Vermont a gated community?

Today we see the Abenaki
Tomorrow we don't
Recognition comes and goes
People of the dawn
People of the new day
Wampanoag, Wabanaki
I love to feel
the warmth of the sun on my skin.
My pinkish-beige skin.

Do we care if the state sees us?
Do we care if they spy on us?
Or is below the radar better?
I bet we care when they torture us!
TV cameras in town squares
Do we like being seen?
Do we love to feel
The eyes, the stares, of others?

My intention is ...
My intention is ...
My intention is ...
What do you say after you say hello?
Or why does 'hello' have to be
'Hell' to begin with?

The road to Hell
Is it paved with good intentions?
Or is that a misnomer?
G-d, what is your true name?
Do I have it right?
Or did someone just step on my toe?

This concludes today's episode
of 'Twelve Gates Into The City'
Stay tuned to this channel
for the next exciting episode,
"Fuck Brattleboro ... where's my Wantastiquet?!"

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